In just over a decade, Zuffa has promoted more than 100 numbered UFC events. Before every new UFC event we'll take a look back in time to a show 100 UFC's prior. With input from the athletes who were in the cage, we'll bring you the history of the Zuffa era one event at a time.
Venue: Continental Airlines Arena (East Rutherford, New Jersey)
Announcers: Mike Goldberg, Frank Shamrock, Jeff Blatnick
It's worth noting, in the wake of the UFC's recent failures to open up New York, that the battle over the Big Apple has been brewing for a decade. UFC 32 was Zuffa's first attempt to make it in the media capital of the world and the company went all out to make a it a success.
B.J. Penn: It took money to build up this thing, and one of the first things they really spent a lot on was billboards in New York's Times Square. One of them had my face on it. It was just my second fight and the whole thing was weird. The UFC took some of us into the city - me, Thomas, Tito, and a few others to promote the show at the ESPN Zone. It was a crazy time.
Pat Miletich: It was nice. Zuffa was doing some good things and raising the notoriety of the sport. I always thought it was going to take someone with deep pockets and who is willing to lose money for a couple of years. Someone who believes in the sport and has connections. That was the Fertitta brothers.
Din Thomas: I was overwhelmed by the whole experience. I remember being in the back and the crazy guy from the Chicago Bulls Dennis Rodman was in the back. I was warming up and Rodman came walking back. I was like 'Man, this is awesome. This is unreal.' At the prefight press conference Carmen Electra was there. I knew I was where I wanted to be in life. It was overwhelming. It was a big experience and a turning point in my life. I knew this was what I was going to do for the next decade...I still have a picture of everybody who fought on that card. We were all in New York City - we were just happy to be fighting. I don't think cats today can appreciate it. We were fighting just to get the show on the air. Forget about sponsors and bonuses and all that stuff.
Things were happening quickly for the promotion in 2001 under the leadership of Dana White and the Fertitta brothers. Days before this event the UFC got the news that the promotion would be back on pay per view nationwide with InDemand. Combined with the recent legalization of the sport in Nevada, it was looking like the sport was on the fast track to success. Reality was a little different ; UFC 33 was an epic disaster that set the sport back years. Had UFC 32 been the first show widely available on PPV, the promotion's growth might have accelerated quickly - seven of the show's eight fights were finished decisively by knockout or submission.
Tony De Souza def. Paul Rodriguez, choke, 1:05 R1
Ricco Rodriguez def. Andrei Arlovski, TKO, 1:23 R3
Vladimir Matyushenko def. Yuki Kondo, unanimous decision
Caol Uno def. Fabiano Iha, TKO, 1:48 R1
Pat Miletich def. Shonie Carter, KO, 2:42 R1
Josh Barnett def. Semmy Schilt, armbar, 4:21 R1
B.J. Penn def. Din Thomas, TKO, 2:42 R1
UFC Light Heavyweight Championship: Tito Ortiz def. Elvis Sinosic. TKO, 3:32
One of the most exciting fights of the night was in the lightweight division. Din Thomas finally made his UFC debut and was the favorite over B.J. Penn. Thomas had beaten Jens Pulver by heel hook in Jamie Levine's World Extreme Fighting, at the time an all star caliber event featuring many of the era's top stars.
It was a fight that was originally scheduled for the undercard. The hype from hardcore fans about Penn, led by announcer Frank Shamrock, helped propel the fight to a top spot on the card.
Thomas: They had offered me an opportunity to fight Jens Pulver for the title and I turned it down to fight in Hawaii for SuperBrawl. That gives you an idea of how big the UFC was at that time. I wanted to go to Hawaii so I turned it down. But I got another chance and it was all good.
I was originally supposed to fight Genki Sudo. He got hurt and B.J. stepped in with a couple of weeks in advance. The only thing that I knew about him was that he was a black belt in jiu jitsu. I was just concerned with his ground.
Penn: Thomas wasn't in the UFC, he was the number one lightweight challenger for the belt. I accepted that. Thomas had already beaten Pulver by submission. If it was supposed to be a fight for the number one contender, it just made sense for them to match us up. I knew it was coming, I knew I would accept, and I was ready.
In the first round Penn threatened with an armbar and Thomas wisely scrambled to his feet. He felt comfortable there, thinking Penn was a typical ground specialist. Instead, the Hawaiian landed a huge knee to the chin that put Thomas on the mat.It was a spectacular finish in a night full of them.
Thomas: That fight had a big impact on my career. I actually talked about this with Mikey Burnett during The Ultimate Fighter IV. I felt just getting knocked out like that changed my style and my outlook on fighting. I wasn't fighting as aggressively. Up until I fought B.J. I was kind of walking through people. Walking them down and crushing them. After, I felt that was what got me knocked out in that fight. Not being cautious enough.
At UFC 31 long time champion Pat Miletich was upset by Canadian rising star Carlos Newton. Looking to get back on track, and to get another shot at his title, Miletich took on fellow Midwesterner Shonie Carter. The two had fought previously for Monte Cox's Extreme Challenge, a decision win for Pat that Carter hotly contested. Miletich was happy to get Carter in the cage to settle the issue once and for all. First, however, he just had to make it to the cage.
The weigh ins at UFC 32 were the morning of the fight and Miletich was cutting a significant amount of weight. This was an important bout for the former champion. Not only did a win trigger an automatic title shot, but he had recently purchased a new house. Miletich needed money and fast - not just the guarantee, but the win bonus too.
Miletich: If I lost the fight I was going to lose the house. So I had to win the fight. Coupled with trying to cut weight and I didn't sleep all night. I got up in the morning completely exhausted and dehydrated from no sleep. I weighed in and went back to my hotel room sipping on Gatorade and water; I was so dehydrated that my entire body cramped up. My toes, my feet, my hands, my forearms, my abs -I was curled up on the bed in my hotel room and I had to call Monte Cox, my manager. I said ‘You've got to get me to the hospital. I've got to get an IV or I'm not going to be able to fight.'
He sent Tom Sauer, a fighter in those days, and Tom had Tourette's real bad. So Tom comes and gets me. Now when you are that dehydrated, you aren't just weak physically, you're weak mentally. But when Tom took me to the hospital in New Jersey, I was still sharp enough to notice that everyone we saw - the doctors, the nurses, the support staff, were all African American. I look at Tom and I say ‘Tom, you can't come in here with me. Because you are going to start dropping the "N" word because of your Tourette's and they are going to kick us out and I'm not going to get my IV. I'm not going to be able to fight, I'm going to lose my house. It's going to be a nightmare and it's going to ruin my life.'
He looked at me and said ‘Pat, shut up. I'm a paramedic in Florida. I work with black folks all the time. It's not a big deal. I explain I have Tourette's and they understand.' So, we walk in and the first thing he does is start dropping the "N" word. He can't control his Tourette's. I said ‘Oh no, my career's over.' He goes over to the front counter and explains he has Tourette's. But he keeps making all these funky noises and throwing out the "N" word. And they're just looking at him like ‘Holy cow, you really do have Tourette's.'
They understood, luckily, and took me in. They gave me a lot of saline. They had to basically revive me, I think I was close to death. When I fought Shonie, I still actually had double vision.
In the first round Miletich and Carter fought conservatively. Pat managed to get the mount, but the savvy Carter was able to minimize the damage. The second round was a different story. Miletich, thought by many to be a dull fighter, finished the bout with one of the best knockouts in UFC history.
Miletich: The first round, I wanted to make a point. He had thrown me with a suplex in our first fight, so I threw him to his back this time. I wore him out, but I knew I needed to finish him out in the second. That's where the head kick came from.
The thing was, they said ‘If you lose, we can cut you.' It wasn't the Zuffa people who came up with that. That was SEG before them. So for me, it was ‘If I don't lose, they won't get rid of me.' I was looking to finish people, but my main concern was getting the win. Get the win money so I could pay bills. It's fun to land a kick like that. The shin bone went right through his head. It wasn't like I kicked him and pulled my foot back. My leg went all the way through his head - that's when you know you've landed well.
In the main event, the UFC's top star Tito Ortiz defended his light heavyweight title. Ortiz had assumed the leading man mantle from Frank Shamrock who had retired after beating Ortiz in 1999. Ortiz had won three straight since, including an important win historically over Wanderlei Silva that bolstered UFC fans in the great debate over whether the UFC or Japan's Pride was the top promotion in the world.
Shamrock, despite the history with Ortiz, picked Sinosic to win the fight. On paper it seemed Ortiz should be the clear favorite, but Frank's rationale was simple. He had beaten Tito decisively. Sinosic had held him to a decision in a bout for K-1 in Japan. But Frank Shamrock may have been the only person on the planet picking Sinosic, who wasn't even sure he was ready for the title shot.
Elvis Sinosic: I was surprised at getting the shot so quickly. Funnily enough my coach and I discussed fighting Tito at UFC 30 and we both agreed that I would need a couple fights under my belt before thinking about it. But then a few weeks later I got the call and asked if I would take the match and I had absolutely no hesitation. How could any fighter turn down and opportunity like that?
Sinosic entered on a throne, playing off his "King of Rock and Rumble" nickname. Ortiz came out to Limp Bizkit's "Break Stuff" with lead singer Fred Durst live and in person in New Jersey. Ortiz's appearance was met with a huge ovation. He was the star of the show and had an aura that only top fighters possessed, the kind of physical presence that causes everyone in the building to lean forward for a better look.
A lanky 6'3" fighter, Sinosic looked rail thin next to the massive Ortiz. But he says the size difference never gave him pause.
Sinosic: His size never bothered me. When I started in the sport I fought in the heavyweight division even though I was naturally a light heavyweight. Big guys were nothing new to me. As to my weight class I am naturally a light heavyweight, I don't need to cut. Due to my frame though I am too big to go to Middleweight and so light heavyweight was the place for me.
Ortiz took Sinosic to the mat and finished him quickly with brutal ground and pound. Few in the UFC's short history have ever done as much damage as Ortiz from his opponent's guard. Sinosic spewed blood as Ortiz lands forearm after forearm to the head. When the ref finally stopped the fight, Tito did his grave digger routine and donned one of his patented t-shirts. The shirt read "That’s American for Whoop-Ass’ Mate." The classy Sinosic paid it no mind and paraded his opponent around the ring with his hand raised in the air.
Sinosic: In regards to Tito's antics I didn't think much of them. It is what he does and I knew it would happen if I lost. I think it's what he does for the fans and for the attention. I don't have any problems with it. What he did with me was pretty light hearted anyway.